On abortion drugs, Democrats push back hard on Wimpy Pharmacies

As Walgreens comes under fire for its new abortion pill policy, 14 Democratic US governors on Tuesday asked the chief executives of seven other major pharmacies to clarify their plans to legally distribute abortion drugs like mifepristone.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in January announced a regulatory change to allow retail pharmacies to dispense mifepristone, one of two drugs commonly taken in tandem to induce abortion. The move came after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned it last summerRoe vs. Wade with its 6-3 victory in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

In the wake of the High Court ruling, patients have faced triggering laws, new efforts to enact abortion bans and other attempts by right-wing political leaders to cut off access to health care, including 20 GOP attorneys general who last month threatened legal action against Walgreens and CVS if they distributed abortion drugs through the mail.

While shortly after the FDA announcement, the two pharma giants confirmed that they planned to seek certification to distribute mifepristone, Walgreens later clarified that it would not offer the drug within States where AG Republicans have threatened legal action, prompting California Governor Gavin Newsom last week not to renew his state’s $54 million contract with Walgreens.

Newsom spearheads the Reproductive Freedom Alliance and on Tuesday joined Democratic governors of Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, New -Mexico, New York, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin to send letters to the executives of Costco, CVS, Health Mart, Kroger, Rite Aid, Safeway and Walmart.

As the governors wrote:

We are deeply committed to protecting and expanding reproductive freedom and the health and well-being of all our residents. As governors of 14 states, we not only represent over 141 million people with a combined economy of over $11 trillion, but we are also direct customers who have worked with many of your businesses for years. on a variety of issues and initiatives. We understand that you are carefully reviewing the new mifepristone certification process. We look forward to hearing your plans for distributing mifepristone in states where such care is legal, as well as any other steps you plan to take to ensure access to reproductive health care.

“As companies that distribute essential and life-saving medicines, we urge that your decisions continue to be guided by well-established scientific and medical evidence and a commitment to the health and well-being of patients, not policies or threats of litigation,” the governors added. .

Meanwhile, senses Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) revealed a series of letters — backed by several Senate Democrats — sent to various pharmacy executives in recent days. They wrote to the managing director of Walgreens “with grave concern about the misunderstanding and confusion your company has created regarding patient access to mifepristone in retail pharmacies.”

Walgreens’ response to pressure from Republican attorneys general “was unacceptable and appeared to bow to these threats, ignoring the critical need to ensure that patients can obtain this essential health care whenever possible,” the senators continued. “As you move through the FDA certification process, we urge you to fully evaluate each state’s laws and ensure that your policies provide the strongest possible legal access to this critical patient care.”

Stabenow said BNC Newswho first reported on letters from senators on Tuesday that “Companies should under no circumstances deny legal health care to women who have the right to access this lifesaving medicine. All companies must follow the FDA certification process and fully comply with applicable state and federal laws.”

Senate Democrats have written to the CEOs of Albertsons, Costco, Kroger and Walmart “with great frustration” that none of them have publicly indicated whether they plan to allow customers to access mifepristone via their pharmacies across the country.

After expressing concern that the GOP’s bullying tactics could “cause companies like yours to continue to stay away and undermine critical care for your customers,” the senators urged these four chains “to pursue policies that provide the best possible access to the full range of essential health care they need, including mifepristone, and to communicate clearly to your clients how they can access this care.”

“We look forward to hearing from you by March 21, 2023 on your intentions to ensure access to this critical FDA-approved product,” the lawmakers added.

In letters to CVS and Rite Aid management, Senate Democrats expressed appreciation for the two chains’ continued efforts to become distributors of mifepristone while noting that “at a time of great confusion over the access to abortion, it is imperative that no company adds to it”. ”

The senators asked the executives of the two companies to answer three questions by March 21:

  • If certified, how do you plan to inform current customers of access to mifepristone in a given state, where restrictions exist and do not exist?
  • If a new state law to restrict access to medical abortion is proposed, at what stage will you clarify to your clients whether they still have access to mifepristone?
  • Will your business conduct community outreach activities to ensure clients are aware of the full range of legal health services available to them?

“Medical abortion is how most women in our country get abortion care,” Murray said. NBC“and it’s absolutely essential that patients can access this safe, FDA-approved drug without having to take medically unnecessary steps or empty their bank accounts to travel hundreds of miles.”

Questions and concerns about access to mifepristone at retail pharmacies arise as patients and providers across the country prepare for a secret hearing Wednesday before right-wing U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk regarding the efforts by an anti-choice group to limit access to abortion by claiming the FDA should never have approved the drug more than two decades ago.

Republished from Common Dreams (Jessica Corbett, editor) under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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